Last update: November 2023.
Without formally announcing it, Romania has just tightened citizenship procedures. In this post, we delve into the changes and what can be done about them. This Winter, Romanian state institutions are bringing us all coal, not presents. In several ways, they have made obtaining Romanian citizenship harder. Here at RomanianDocuments.net, we are on top of things and constantly pivot to find new solutions for our clients. Here's the rundown on what changed and how we face it.
RomanianDocuments.net is always happy to give you an individual consultation for Romanian citizenship. The easiest way is to contact us, by using our smart form.
The essence of all the new changes is that obtaining citizenship has become harder, and much more customized. It is almost impossible to say for sure, ahead of time, whether a person has a chance at Direct citizenship (meaning: being considered a citizen from birth), or at citizenship by application. The "citizenship check" service has been completely ceased (both through the General Passport Directorate, as through consulates).
Change 1. No more direct citizenship check:
Until mid-October it was possible to ask whether your deceased parent, or grandparent had formally maintained their status as a Romanian citizen upon emigration. This is not possible anymore, unless the last Romanian-born person is alive, and even then, it must be done indirectly.
How we approach it:
A. If your Romanian-born ancestor is alive: we obtain their modern Romanian birth certificate and ask for their citizenship status to be verified.
B. If your Romanian-born ancestor is not alive: we take a complex approach, consisting of searches in international relevant archives [examples: Arolsen, Berlin Information Center, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Ancestry, MyHeritage, JewishGen etc.] to find any Romanian-issued document that proves their Romanian citizenship, as well as encouraging you to search in your own family archives for this.
If enough clues as to your ancestor's continued Romanian citizenship exist, and they emigrated on or after 1949, we advise that you have a chance at Direct citizenship. Otherwise, we guide you towards citizenship by application.
Change 2. Individual assessment of citizenship cases:
As of mid-October, Romanian institutions do not work with general positive assumptions anymore, regarding citizenship, but instead take a personalized approach in each case. For example, they invoke specific time-appropriate laws to deny someone citizenship, rather than just assuming a person kept their Romanian citizenship. They also look much deeper at documents. This is a very challenging development, because it means identical cases can have different outcomes depending on the quality of documentation.
How we approach it:
On the one hand, this change means that more clients have to go through the citizenship by application procedure, rather than being Direct citizens.
On the other hand, the upside is that we have the chance to prove you are already a citizen, if you have good Romanian-issued documents. What did not matter so much until now [your ancestor's last Romanian passport], now matters a lot more! Depending on your situation, we are always ready to make a case that you are already a citizen, and there is now some room for pleading and explaining with the authorities.
Change 3. Compulsory Apostille for citizenship by application:
Under an Emergency Government Ordinance, when someone applies for Romanian citizenship [i.e. not in Direct citizenship cases], the exemption from Apostille requirements for countries with which we have bilateral or multilateral treaties does not apply anymore. That means, essentially, that all of your foreign documents need Apostilles or super-legalization.
How we approach it:
For documents issued in European Union member states, it is possible to avoid this by requesting directly multi-lingual extracts instead of normal certificates. We can assist you with this directly.
For documents issued in the US, nothing changes, the Apostille was always required.
For documents issued in Israel, nothing changes, the Apostille was always required, and we have local partners who can provide it.
For documents issued in Ukraine, now the Apostille is also needed. We have local partners who can provide it.
The real problem is for Moldovan documents, and for that area, we are actively looking for solutions.
Change 4. Essential tip! Take advantage and get citizenship while your last Romanian-born ancestor is still alive!
Because of a combination of rules on data protection, the overwhelm of some parts of Romanian bureaucracy, and the restrictions imposed by the Romanian State, it is essential to take advantage and start the process of Romanian citizenship while your last Romanian ancestor is still alive!
This combination of changes makes it so that the death of your last Romanian-born ancestor means you cannot access the Direct citizenship path anymore, just the citizenship by application path. That is the difference between 1 and 4 years' of waiting, and also, some documents can only be obtained with a lot of extra costs or not at all.
It is therefore essential to take advantage, and use the access that only your Romanian-born ancestor can request [to their civil status records from Romania, and to an indirect citizenship check] that, once they pass away, is lost forever.
Case study on this point: Ianos was born in Romania in 1937 and still alive, now living in the US. He does not wish to obtain citizenship but his daughter and grandchildren wish to do so. Ianos left Romania in 1942, while still a minor. If Ianos himself contracts me, I can:
-> obtain his Romanian modern birth certificate [which is impossible after his death];
-> request an indirect citizenship check for him [which is also impossible after his death];
-> bring non-usual records to support his citizenship, such as baptism certificates, school records etc. [which have no value once he has died], and plead his case.
Once Ianos's citizenship is confirmed, he does not need to obtain a Romanian passport. His daughter can directly start her own procedure, in full knowledge of being already considered a citizen. Same for his grandchildren.
By contrast, once Ianos dies, his daughter only has citizenship by application open, and through a more complicated procedure, because:
-> I have to request Ianos's birth record in a more complex and costly manner [it is normally closed once he dies];
-> a citizenship check is impossible - he will be presumed to have lost citizenship;
-> there is no pleading, only strict, specific records, Apostilled, are admissible.
A typical Baptism Certificate of the Romanian Orthodox Church
Any good news at all?
With every negative comes some positive, and we are always the cheerful and optimist type, while maintaining a strong dose of realism. Here are a few good recent changes that can help your case:
Good change 1: Canada has finally joined the 1961 Apostille Convention.
What this means: As of 11 January 2024, Canadian documents will not require super-legalization anymore [meaning, 3 different stamps], but instead will just receive an Apostille, valid worldwide, including in Romania. Less cost, less time, less bureaucracy!
Good change 2: As a Romanian attorney, I can now access the General Population Register.
What this means: Particularly for persons who were born after 1949, it is an alternate means to find whether someone is still a citizen, what their legal name in Romania is spelled like, when they got married, what their last address is. The cost of this is minimal, and can be done within 5 working days. Less cost, less time, less bureaucracy!
Good change 3: Alternative documents are now allowed when provind a living person's citizenship.
What this means: If your last Romanian-born ancestor is still alive, I can design a more complex approach, bring documents found by you, in your family archive, as well as by me, in international and national archives, to plead and help determine that they are still Romanian citizens, even if you do not have their last Romanian passport, or they are not found in the databases. This can be a unique chance at Direct citizenship!
Good change 4: We have Ukrainian partners!
What this means: We have partners that can reliably, and relatively speedily, obtain official Ukrainian documents, with Apostille, particularly from the Cernauti, Northern Bukovina, area, where many persons entitled to citizenship by application have their origins.
Good change 5: Re-constitution of birth records is now possible administratively.
What this means: If your ancestor was born in present-day Romania, and we have sufficient alternate, circumstantial evidence of their birth data, but their birth record has been destroyed [by war, fire etc.], we can re-constitute it speedily and at a low cost, enabling you to then apply for Romanian citizenship.
Change is in the nature of things, and even more so for Romanian bureaucracy. We adapt and pivot according to these changes, and provide actionable, practical approaches to each client.
I do hope this introductory guide was informative, and that it shows we are actively thinking how best to get results for our clients. For any questions or issues, do not hesitate to write us an e-mail.